Do what scares you
Like many people in these COVID streets (or Zooms, more aptly), I've been thinking lately about ways to make money that I control and 2 have come to mind lately.
While I have no trouble making risky professional and scholarly decisions, there's something about the money that gives me deer-in-headlights kinds of fear and anxiety.
Having an entrepreneur partner is making me feel worse. He takes things I'm ready to hide under a table just thinking about as a matter of course in his daily life and has trouble understanding why everyone isn't striking out on their own.
I wish I could just redirect my anxiety at him and tell him to be more supportive of my struggle, but the reality is that I agree with everything he says. In concept.
It's the execution that scares me.
And leaning into the fear makes me realize that I a) don't often feel this kind of fear, and b) when I do, I make myself do that which scares me just so I can see what all the fear is really about. That approach may in fact be how I ended up with a PhD doing research on structural racism.
So I'm going to probably take a couple of days in solitude (do I even really need to get away if what I want is solitude? Nah; corona. But still. I haven't even seen a beach this year and the Sag in me is screaming about it.) to think and breathe and jump into yet another black hole because apparently that's what I'm into. Besides, if 2020 is teaching us humans anything, it's that there's another black hole of [insert thing you never thought you'd have to deal with] something right around the corner.
Adulting is scary and often tiring.
Art is emotional labor
This morning's listen was Seth Godin's Linchpin - a book I read and loved early on in my career and decided to revisit recently thanks to my public library. The statement, "Art is emotional labor," hit different this morning. I'm working on the qualitative paper from my dissertation study in hopes of submitting it to a call for papers from Pedagogy in Health Promotion about antiracism in teaching. It's a long one, currently clocking in at 30 pages and more than 9000 words. The longest manuscript I could submit is 7000 words for this particular journal, so basically a whole other manuscript's worth of words. This got me to thinking last night about what if I pull out all of the reflexivity writing and make that a separate paper. And the idea of that felt both efficient and a little sad. Re-reading the manuscript reminded me of how precarious a power situation I was in as a student interrogating the institution I was also asking for a degree and to pull the analysis apart from the reflection made me feel like both would be a little less for it.
And it's because of this concept - the art in that paper is inextricable from my grappling with my position within the research. It's why I went back to school to be the investigator rather than just another member of a research team. I don't come across very many papers that do both in a single go - grapple with the other social actors in the social phenomenon under study while simultaneously also dealing with themselves as both researcher and social actor. The emotional labor makes it both scary and impactful.
There's some hope; a large section of my intro is in another manuscript currently under revision, so I plan to take that out and see where that leaves me. But if I'm still very far off from the word limit, I'll look for another journal that might work.
Thanks, blog, for helping me work that out.
The more I write, read, and edit, the more I see where my own writing can improve. And that, rather than make me sad, makes me kind of excited to continue to work on my writing skills.
Plus, I'm noticing that editing the work of other people is one way in which I can push past my own ideas or otherwise expand my own thinking on a topic.
That's cool or whatever.
This morning was payday and I was looking at getting more work-from-home gear (because COVID), but caught myself pulling back a little bit and telling myself that I didn't have as much money as I thought I might after paying bills.
That's a scarcity mindset.
I know I am more focused working from home when I'm dressed for work as opposed to dressed for the gym or the couch. I also know that I have a big gap in my wardrobe for things that are elevated above gym/couch/athleisure but still not the cardigans and dry-clean tops I've been investing in for going into the office/onto campus. (side note: why am I unwilling to wear dry clean clothes for myself and my own productivity?) So logic stands to reason that I should have no problem investing in clothes that help me be maximally productive, right?
But I see clothes buying as an expense rather than an investment, and low-to-medium key a selfish one at that.
What's weird is that there are several facets of my life where I'm not at all in that scarcity mindset (e.g., home stuff, productivity tools, electronics). It's when it comes to things that benefit me and only me that I balk. Same reason I didn't discover my love of makeup until my late 30s - investing in that practice of self-care, mindfulness and creativity felt like a vain and unfruitful expenditure. Now, its something I do for no one other than me, even days when I won't see anyone else. Hell, I probably put on more makeup when I lived alone than I do now that I live with my partner. But clothes, that's some childhood stuff I gotta work through.
A book and a blog
Listening to the woman I'm increasingly thinking of as my unofficial mentor, Brené Brown, just now talk about how she went from a girl with a book and a blog to the CEO and president of things at a dizzying speed was really affirming in terms of thinking about the things I want to accomplish, the masterminding my partner and I have been doing for much of this pandemic (really, the majority of our relationship), and the fear of daydreams making me ungrateful for all I have achieved.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'll be on that level or even that I have that as a goal, but things tend to happen so slowly and then all at once.
It takes a long time to become an overnight success.
I think that's what I was thinking; that as I use the social distancing and lack of distractions that have resulted from this pandemic, I start to think about the next big challenge(s), what I want if so much of the world is open to me.
To be bold, brilliant, and brown is both incredibly exciting and dizzyingly dangerous. I'm working without a net, often have throughout my life, and stopping to look down from heights I've been working toward but hadn't stopped to fully appreciate is a bit of a mind trip. I can do pretty much what I want as Dr. Merino, and don't even really have to limit it to a single thing. I don't just have to be an academic, or just an activist, or just a creative. I can be all of those things.
And none of them, and still be myself.
AND I'm capable of building my own little empire if I'm just willing to start.
You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.
I started reading Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness recently and this quote above has been gnawing at me ever since (to the point where its the quote of the month of the fridge).
As I take this social distancing time to consider what it would be like to run my own consulting firm full-time with several employees or move toward independent scholarship, I'm met yet again with the feeling of not knowing what the hell I'm doing. Granted, as any first gen academic will tell you, this is nothing new. My own twitter tagline says first gen everything, so yes, I'm used to fumbling around in the dark, doing my best to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. The further along I get, though, the less of a path there is to be found. And now that I've run out of school (though part of me is considering an MBA if I want to run my own thing), I've been wondering since then what I'm supposed to do next to keep myself striving, humble and hungry, like it's my first song in the words of the poet, Jay-Z.
I don't really know what I'm doing, I just kind of try stuff and hope for the best; learn what I can and then move on and either try to do better or try something else and hope for the best again. So like most things Brené Brown, it feels like she wrote for me specifically to read at the exact time I pick it up.
I'm looking forward to getting into the book more, since I'm just at the beginning. I'm hoping that it'll be clearer what I should do, but I'm guessing it'll be just getting more comfortable with the expanse of the I-don't-know's I live in now.
PS - Yes, social distancing because for someone who's love language is physical touch, physical distancing and social distancing are the same thing.
During my COVID walk this morning, I was on the phone with someone from a federal agency providing a reference for a colleague. Very quickly, we realized we have similar interests - she wants to diversify her pipeline of recent PhDs going into her agency and I want to help PhDs from diverse backgrounds find the jobs that work for them. Basically, with our powers combined, diversifying the public health workforce.
We may have spent more time talking about collaborations than about the colleague's position (sorry, Gabbie, but you got this and we both knew it).
This just helps me know that all that time I spend/spent working on that "elevator pitch" or whatever and having the confidence to say, "Oh these are the things that I run and here are the people that we can help together," really wasn't just me playing at professional development as a hobby (though I still think it is very much that) but also preparation for these kinds of serendipitous encounters.
Stay ready so you don't have to get ready.
In trying to find my next audiobook (and after a series of false starts), I stumbled upon the audio version of the Seth Godin book, Linchpin, from my library. This was a book I adored as a young professional because it gave me permission to be daring and different.
As I listened to it on my COVID walk this morning, I thought about how some of the information felt outdated in the 2020 of things. I don't think many people under the age of 50 believe in the pension myth anymore, so convincing my generation (or younger) to let go of this notion is sort of unnecessary.
Then I thought about how this myth is still mostly alive in what people see in the allure and false promise of the tenure myth in academia.
Figures we as academics are among the last to understand a thing about the world.
So many researchers have made careers of doing their little corner of well-established research, working toward the next rung of the research or academic ladder, glad to be doing something more autonomous than they thought possible with just a bachelor's or master's degree.
Yet, if innovation is constantly a marker of research, then the bar for innovation is actually much higher for being a purple cow in academic spaces. Instead, small additions to well-understood problems (I'm looking at you, younger self, doing HIV things) is not unlike contributing another cog in an automobile assembly line.
And that's not enough. At least not for me.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how some of my biggest problems in my current alt-ac position are around trying to scale antiracist and equity-focused work and training. But isn't scaling an issue of capitalism and is that actually the desired approach to antiracism and equity?
The more I think about it, the more I start to think that scaling need not be the goal for this kind of work. Maybe I should be focusing my energy a little more on customizing...
The problem becomes the way.
give your ideas a chance to live
...and don't be afraid to make crap once in a while